Objectives and aims
The charity’s objects are to promote any charitable purpose for the benefit of the community in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames (‘RBK’), by the advancement of education, the protection and preservation of health and the relief of poverty, sickness and distress.
KCABS’ aims are to provide free, confidential, impartial and independent advice and information for the benefit of the local community, to provide the advice people need for the problems they face and to work to improve policies and practices that affect people’s lives. We aim to provide a high quality service for as many people as possible, focussing on those most in need.
We review our aims, objectives and activities on a regular basis. This review looks at what we achieved and the outcomes of our work in the previous twelve months. It looks at the success of each key activity and the benefits to those groups of people we are here to help and it also helps us to ensure our aims, objectives and activities remained focussed on our stated purposes. We have referred to the guidance contained in the Charity Commission’s general guidance on public benefit when reviewing our aims and objectives and in planning our future activities. In particular, the trustees consider how planned activities will contribute to the aims and objectives they have set. We are also revising our Business Development Plan to take account of the Citizens Advice Modernisation Programme which includes increased self assessment for audit purposes. This self assessment includes noting progress against a series of objectives which will be critical for our continued membership of the national association of CABx . Key element include digital service delivery, better access by phone for clients, increased numbers of client assisted at the first point of contact as well as changes to our research and campaigning work.
Our key objectives are:
- Good access to the service to best suit clients’ needs across a range of subjects
- Campaigning to improve policies which affect people’s lives
- Maintaining excellent external relations to ensure best outcomes for our clients and to safeguard the future of our service
- Working to support coordinated and integrated information and advice services locally
- Maintaining funding to deliver our objectives and to safeguard the future of our service
- Maintaining external quality accreditation to provide evidence to our funders and clients that we use our resources effectively and offer a high quality service which is good value for money
The principal activity of the charity remained the provision of free, confidential, independent and impartial advice, information and counsel for members of the public. This has been provided through the main bureau and associated outlets in New Malden and Chessington. Advisory services were provided through telephone, face-to-face consultations, and through our comprehensive referral system with local partner agencies. We have continued to develop our pro bono clinic with partners from local solicitors and other agencies such as Shelter, Capitalise project Richmond CAB, Pensions Wise, Money Plan (independent financial advice). Our pro-bono clinics involves free legal advice on a range of topics for clients including education, immigration, family issues, wills and probate, medical negligence, personal injury, employment and mediation for Small Claims cases. We now offer 40 appointments per month to clients attending these clinics. We have also enhanced our digital offering for clients through the continuation of systems established under our partnership project – Advisers Working Together – and the associated website Kingston One Click. This website has many self help materials and links to other information as well as an online submission facility for clients to use to access information and advice.This has proved extremely popular with an average of 530 clients per month using this service. This type of digital provision will be further developed in our new service delivery plans for the future. In addition to our information and advice work, we carry out campaigning work by gathering evidence to put before policy makers to assist them to see the impact of their decisions so that they can make changes to alleviate hardship and suffering. We have continued to develop our Twitter and Facebook account for KCABS which means we can quickly and easily pass information about issues that should be explored further.
KCABS assisted an average of 9 clients per day with advice on a range of topics. The main enquiry areas are Welfare Benefits (26%), Debt (15%), Housing (19%) and Employment (10%). It is noted that Housing has continued to be the second largest enquiry area, overtaking debt queries. Other areas for enquiries are legal matters, immigration, family and relationship issues, health and related matters. In addition, our team also helped a further 15 people per day with information, so we assisted 24 local people per day. Our volunteer advisers work an average of two days per week and it takes about eighteen months for them to be fully trained to the exacting standard which is required. We support clients in a range of ways, from listening and giving information through to representing them in courts and tribunals. The majority of our work is generalist casework and involves negotiating with third parties on behalf of clients.
Our significant activities in furtherance of our objectives and aims include the following:
- Our new service delivery model focusses more resources on initial contact with clients to resolve more problems at the first point of contact
- 72% are now resolved immediately compared with 59% before the change
- Running the Kingston Information and Advice Pilot Partnership project to provide support for those affected by changes in the Care Act 2014
- Developing and running an in-house training programme from information gathered at annual appraisals with all staff
- Continuing and developing our current partnership and local liaison work, including the referrals network and the maintenance of the online network for information and advice providers (kiaa – Kingston Information and Advice Alliance)
- Establishing a single front door for info and advice locally using KCABS and kiaa systems for this
- Working as RBK’s Strategic Lead Partner for all issues relating to information and advice in our community
- Establishing an understanding of the wider operating environment both for the advice sector and the voluntary sector generally and ensure that all development work for KCABS is in the context of the changing environment, to safeguard the future of our service to clients
- Maintaining funding to ensure sustainability of the service
- Maintaining external quality accreditation
- Establishing and supporting the Universal Credit Rollout partnership to help people who are making and managing claims online and also those needing budget skills to manage their money
The charity receives help and support in the form of voluntary assistance in advising the public and in administering the charity’s operations. The following chart shows how much monetary value equivalent our volunteers have contributed to KCABS and to the community in terms of staff costs.
The Trustee Board is extremely grateful to all our volunteers for their continued support and dedication.
The main point of contact for new clients seeking advice is by telephone. When a client telephones, they have a ‘Gateway Assessment’ and their case goes for allocation to either a specialist or generalist worker if further help is needed. Our local telephone provision has enabled us to assist more local people and has made it cheaper for them to contact us. The main points of contact for clients seeking information are our website and information centres (see below).
During the year, we undertook:
- On-going support for volunteers
- Expansion and development of our pro bono services for clients
- Financial Capability work in schools and local groups such as Refugee Action Kingston
- An online referral scheme with partner agencies to help us reach clients who might not otherwise access our service
- Our AWT Project to improve access, outcomes reporting, prevention work and resilience mechanisms for our service
- Expansion of our pro bono services for clients
- Providing digital access using the kiaa One Click website (online submissions)
- Rebranding of the service to tie in with the new Citizens Advice brand
- Adopting Google Apps for business to support further cloud working to increase stability and security of our work
We continued to run our Information Centres at Kingston, Malden and Chessington where clients are helped to use a computer to access information on the internet and are given factsheets and leaflets where appropriate. Our reception and information room opening hours were Monday to Thursday from 10am to 3.30pm and from 10am to 1pm on Friday. We continue to offer self-help materials to people who may be able to help themselves so that we can focus our resources on face to face work with the clients who need us most.
We implemented and continue to develop our in-house website for all team members – both volunteers (including Trustees) and paid staff. This has become the main focus for communication and includes a noticeboard with weekly updates. It also holds our Office Manual which contains all policies and procedures used by the service and can be quickly accessed by all team members so that we consistently apply policies and procedures to maintain our high quality service for clients.
In order to provide an efficient structure and support for staff, we carried out a range of activities including an in-house training programme, our annual review of our Human Resources policies and our Health and Safety policies to ensure that employment legislation is complied with and that staff have a safe working environment. We have implemented our Information Assurance policy to make sure both client and staff data is held securely, and also our Business Continuity Plan with another ‘dry run’ of the procedures for responding to an emergency (which is defined as an event which would disrupt the service to clients for more than 48 hours). The continuity plan works well and is kept up to date with annual reviews. We have also established an Environmental Sustainability Policy and set ourselves targets to reduce our carbon footprint etc. We have an annual review programme for all key policies which are updated and this is reported quarterly to the Trustee Board and noted on the Team Pages website.
We engaged more in campaigning for change by offering extra support to advisers in this important area. We took part in various national campaigns, including renters rights for private tenants, rights for self employed people and combatting domestic abuse, as well as welfare benefit problems for clients. We continued with our website application ‘Crowdmap’ to log poverty in our area which we are using to gather and demonstrate evidence of the impact of policy makers’ decisions, to help them to see the effects and to make changes to alleviate hardship and suffering. We have also used Twitter and Facebook to spread messages about issues of social policy and campaigning for change to improve people’s lives.
Our financial gains for clients recording system shows we secured £635,304 for clients last year. We also record outcomes for clients so that we are in a position to demonstrate the beneficial impact of our work in the local community. For example, we helped 650 families avoid repossession – if the local authority had rehoused these families, the cost (based on the nationally recognised figure of £32,000 per household) would have been in excess of £1.69m.
With reference to securing and increasing our income, we achieved continuation or commencement of funding from:
- the BIG Lottery for our AWT Project
- the Department for Energy and Climate Change for our project to combat fuel poverty
- RBK for our Care Act project
and donations from various agencies sharing our premises.
Internal and external factors
We have been involved in the new Citizens Advice Quality of Advice Audit (QAA) process which involves monthly assessment of a random sample of cases. Our assessments are cross checked by Citizens Advice and a quarterly score is given. If this does not meet standards then we have to devise and implement a development plan to address issues. We have recorded high scores on our QAA assessments.
Partnership work has continued and includes:
Voluntary and Community Sector Strategy project, Kingston Information and Advice Alliance (‘kiaa’) which comprises 50 agencies from statutory, voluntary and private sectors, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Forum, Kingston Churches Action on Homelessness, Kingston Foodbank, Kingston Race and Equalities Council, Staywell, Kingston Voluntary Action, Voluntary Sector Board, South West London Law Centre, Mind in Kingston, Kingston Centre for Independent Living, Refugee Action Kingston and work with local solicitors, Straight Talking, various departments at RBK – including those working to alleviate child poverty and to transform Social Care services for adults and on local housing issues), Welfare Reform Project, Resilience Forum, Kingston Strategic Partnership, Suicide Prevention Forum and partners working on the Refugee and Migrants Strategy.
During the year, we have continued as the Strategic Lead Partner for RBK in the Information and Advice sub sector. This role has enabled us to help better coordination locally of information and advice services which will improve services for clients.
KCABS aims continually to improve access to its service and to maintain a high quality service for as many clients as possible by focussing on those most in need and being innovative about methods of service delivery. We work in partnership with other local agencies both to prevent problems arising for clients and to help them resolve problems that have arisen. In order to achieve our objectives, we have the following plans for future work and developments:
1. Access to our Service to meet clients’ needs
- Review systems each year to ensure the service is still meeting needs, especially in light of changes in the operating environment
- Implement our target for optimum number of advisers, taking into account their support needs, and develop a strategy to recruit to this number.
- Develop further self help materials to assist local people and develop our website to make it easier for individuals to access information and advi
- Work in partnership with other local agencies develop and maintain a single referral point/portal for local information and advice building on the established network of the Kingston Information and Advice Alliance (kiaa)
- Continue to develop digital resources and access systems for clients so that we can assist more people to help themselves.
2. Maintain and Develop Excellent External Relationships
- Continue links with key partnerships – see above – and identify what joint funding bids can be submitted
- Continue work on the Kingston Information and Advice Alliance as a single front door to information and advice services locally
- Continue to assess the operating environment for our work and confirm where we should collaborate and where we should compete with other organisations
3. Work to support coordinated and integrated information and advice services locally
- Continue to develop and maintain partnerships
4. Maintain Income
- Work with local Commissioners to influence what services are sought under contract and prepare to bid for these, working in cooperation with other local providers wherever possible
- Assess the feasibility of increasing income from charitable and statutory sources in light of the increased involvement of the voluntary sector in providing public services
- Further develop partnerships with other Kingston groups and neighbouring CABx so we are in a strong position for partnership bids, especially using the Kingston Information and Advice Alliance for this vital networking activity
5. Campaign to improve policies which affect people’s lives
- Continue to monitor work and carry out local campaigns where appropriate
- Continue to respond to national initiatives
- Ensure that new staff are fully engaged in campaign work
6. Maintain External Quality Accreditation
- Ensure that policies are implemented so that we remain in strong position to pass our next quality audit
Structure, Governance and Management
A Trustee Board of up to fifteen members administers the charity. They meet up to six times per year and there are additional meetings of the Executive sub-committee and working groups, as required. The Chief Executive of the organisation, Pippa Mackie, has been appointed by the trustees to manage the day-to-day operations of the charity. In addition, there is an experienced team of paid staff and a substantial team of volunteers who are key to the service offered by the charity.
Decisions are made by the Trustee Board in line with the Business Development Plan which is reviewed annually and reported on quarterly to the Trustee Board. The Executive Committee meet each month to review progress against targets and the Charity’s financial position, and to discuss issues referred to them by the main Trustee Board. Reports and recommendations are then taken to the full Board for approval, and their implementation is organised by the Chief Executive and the staff team. The Executive Committee also addresses any Human Resources issues.
There are regular staff meetings, paid team meetings and senior management team meetings which ensure that progress is being made against targets and also enable early troubleshooting when problems arise. There is an Annual Public Meeting which involves the whole staff team, Trustee Board and Stakeholders. The focus of this varies – for example, methods of access to the service, funding strategy, stakeholder engagement etc. – and the results form part of the ongoing Business Development Plan process.
Induction and training of new trustees
New trustees are elected at the Annual General Meeting, or are co-opted during the course of the year. They are given an induction pack of literature which confirms their role and responsibilities and they also undergo an induction programme in the bureau, and may attend briefing sessions run by the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux (‘Citizens Advice’). There is a Chair’s network group London wide and occasional interest groups are also held.
KCABS is a member of the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux (‘NACAB’) – also known as ‘Citizens Advice’ – the national charity which sets standards for advice and equal opportunities, and supports bureaux with an information system, training and other services. Operating policies are independently determined by KCABS’ Trustee Board in order to fulfil its charitable objectives and comply with the national membership requirements.
In addition to its membership of Citizens Advice, the charity also cooperates and liaises with a number of other advisory services, local charities and Council departments on behalf of clients. Where one of the trustees is also involved with another relevant organisation, they may be involved in discussions about it but not in any decision-making process.
KCABS has worked on a Corporate Risk Management exercise and a risk management strategy and risk register have been agreed by the Trustee Board. Monthly risk assessments are made by the Executive Committee of all project work to identify problems and engage in early troubleshooting where necessary. The Trustees recognise that any major risks to which the charity is exposed need to be reviewed and systems put in place to mitigate those risks. To that end, the charity is continually monitoring and managing its risk, reviewing the corporate risk register and ensuring action plans are in place to mitigate its key risks.
Included in external risks is that of the loss of funding. The effects of this have been minimised by the procedures in place which have resulted in funding being secured from a variety of sources. The charity continues to seek to diversify its funding sources. However, it is recognised that with significant cuts to public services, there may be decreases in income and the local authority has kept our grant unchanged for a number of years. During the reporting period, the local authority administration has moved to a commissioning framework for future funding and the Trustees have delegated authority to the Chief Officer to carry out necessary tasks to make sure the organisation is in as strong a position as possible to bid competitively for contracts. This has included developing and maintaining partnerships, working as lead agency on projects and initiatives and assessing the service delivery model and management structure to see if they are fit for purpose in terms of securing future funding and a full scale revision implemented in September 2015. Internal risks are minimised by the implementation of procedures for authorisation of all transactions and projects and to ensure consistent quality of delivery for all operational aspects of the charitable company. These procedures are periodically reviewed to ensure that they still meet the needs of the charity.